Marco Rubio Introduces Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012

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Rapidly rising Republican star Senator Marco Rubio (R.Fla.) introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 to counter the Obama mandated coverage of contraceptives.

“Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a new mandate that would require most church-affiliated organizations to offer their workers private insurance coverage without out-of-pocket charges for birth control.  The administration ignored efforts by numerous faith-based organizations to be granted an exemption on religious grounds.”

“The Obama Administration’s obsession with forcing mandates on the American people has now reached a new low by violating the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people.  Under this President, we have a government that has grown too big, too costly and now even more overbearing by forcing religious entities to abandon their beliefs.  This is a common sense bill that simply says the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so.”  

Go here to read the text of the bill.  The Respect of Rights of Conscience Act has already been introduced in the House and Senate and has 135 co-sponsors, including Rubio.  Go here to read the text of this bill.  Rubio has often been spoken of as the GOP vice-presidential nominee, although he has stated several times that he has no interest in the nomination.  If he is nominated, I think this bill signals that religious freedom would be a theme that Rubio would hit hard in his campaign.  Keep your eye on Rubio.  I suspect that this 40 year old Senator might well play a key role in this year’s election.

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  1. It is a sad day in America when we need an Act to protect what is already protected in the 1st amendment. “Religious freedom. We mean it. We really, really mean it.”

  2. Kyle, You raise an interesting question: does the passing of a bill to reinforce what the 1st already guarantees actually weaken the amendment?

  3. G-Veg, Indeed. This Act is the wrong tactic.

    Attacking this on constitutional grounds seems much more logical, especially given the recent Supreme Court victory for religions and their hiring practices.

    In a 9-0 defeat for the administration, the justices said the 1st Amendment gives “special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations” in decisions about their employees.

    I think the U.S. bishops have an almost slam dunk case.

  4. “G-Veg, Indeed. This Act is the wrong tactic.

    “Attacking this on constitutional grounds seems much more logical …”

    I wholeheartedly disagree. First, although this should be a slam dunk, it is important to note that courts are nevertheless reluctant to make broad, sweeping constitutional pronouncements when other means of striking down a law are available, and even then, you’re not assured of victory. Plus, it’s not like this case goes directly to the Supreme Court. It has to go through federal district court, then on to the circuit court level via appeal, and then on to the Supreme Court, assuming the Court grants certiorari. Which is not a given. The Court only hears a certain number of cases per year, and there is no assurance that this case even makes it onto the docket. I assume it would, given it’s importance, but there is still some uncertainty. But to run its course through the federal courts, it could easily take a couple of years or more before the case even came up for Supreme Court review.

    This mandate came about via administrative rule-making, and is easily overturned by federal legislation by the democratically elected branches without even involving the courts. That is ALWAYS the preferable route in a republican form of government. PLUS, bringing it up for a vote puts people on the record of supporting or opposing this mostrosity. My guess is that it would pass overwhelmingly in an election year, possibly with veto-proof majorities in both houses. Then Obama gets to be put on the spot to sign or veto. If he vetoes, again, I have a feeling in an election year that such a veto would be overridden.

    That is the preferable route. But I would still, if I were the Bishops, file suit against the HHS in federal district court so that both options are proceeding along a parallel track. You still want the judicial option available should the legislative option fail.

    But it is by no means a mistaken tactic to try to overturn this Obamination of a mandate legislatively.

  5. This Act would overturn nothing. It expands an existing exemption in Obamacare. If the Act did overturn parts or the entirety of Obamacare, I would completely agree.

    The courts can move swiftly when needed. Recent examples: Mandate challenge and Texas redistricting cases.

    In an election year, such a veto will never happen. I can see him signing the exemption.

    I didn’t mean the Act would be ineffective. I think it’s the least preferable route in this case. I prefer a tactic which illustrates yet another way Obamacare is unconstitutional for all to see. Death to Obamacare not by “mere flesh wounds,” but by several severe blows. As you say, both routes in parallel would be great.

  6. Mr. Anderson, your pragmatic response seems solid but it feels like bolstering, a “gilding of the lily” if you will.

    The Constitution says what it says and it is solidly on our side.

    If the goal is to turn back this particular rule, perhaps the approach you outline is a winner. However, if the goal is to restore meaning to the 1st Amendment, surely it is better to have the Supremes rule on it (the justices, not the singers) than to leave the unanswered constitutional question.

  7. I don’t know, sometimes I think I might prefer the singers.

    At any rate, the legislative rout is a pretty shrewd move in an election year, if they can actually act upon it by then.

  8. There is an aspect of this that I am not seeeing adequately addressed anywhere. Our bishops are urging us to exercise our first amendment rights and warning that they cannot follow these new regulations, but where are the Catholic hospitals (and other health care providers) in this. I just did a search at and who both operate “Catholic” hospitals here in Colorado. The phrase “conscience protection” can’t be found at either site. I then dug deeper to the web sites for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, KS Health Systems (who founded Exempla Healthcare and many of it’s member hospitals): still nothing. Finally, looking at the web pages for Catholic Health Inititives (who partner with Adventist Health to run Centura), I see that they formally objected to this regulation when first proposed last year, but nothing since.

    I can’t imagine that these Catholic organizations will not need our support and (at the very least) our prayers if they intend to follow our bishops’ directions in opposing these onerous new rules. Shouldn’t they be louder in spelling out how they will fight for their own conscience protection, and how we can help?

  9. “Mr. Anderson, your pragmatic response seems solid but it feels like bolstering, a “gilding of the lily” if you will.”

    It’s not so much a “pragmatic” response, as it is the appropriate means of remedying an overreach of administrative rule-making by the constitutionally appropriate body – Congress. I’m not saying don’t file suit, because the Bishops SHOULD file suit. But, at the same time, if you want to resolve the matter in the manner envisioned by the Founders (not that the Founders ever envisioned the huge Administrative Branch monstrosity we currently have), then you go to the legislative branch.

    You can and should do both, but the notion that we should completely forego the legislative route in favor of the judicial one just doesn’t make sense and is unwise. Clearly the HHS mandate is unconstitutional, but it doesn’t serve conservatives well to believe that our FIRST and BEST option is always to seek redress via the courts. And, quite honestly, this need to feel completely vindicated by the Supreme Court every time we are aggrieved is hardly a conservative virtue.

  10. Because it was enacted by Congress and signed by the President. Who was going to overturn it? The same Congress and President that enacted it? The only way to overturn unconstitutional LEGISLATION, other then getting Congress and the President to change their minds is to turn to the federal courts.

    That’s not the case with administrative rulemaking. Congress has legislative oversight over administrative rulemaking and is empowered to overturn administrative action, subject to presidential signature or veto.

    You’re comparing apples to oranges. The HHS mandate came into being by administrative rulemaking; the mandate itself came into being by an act of Congress signed by the President.

  11. “Congress has legislative oversight over administrative rulemaking”

    This is true but only if both houses of Congress take action by passing a bill. In many states, however, legislatures exercise this oversight through appointed committees that review agency rules on a regular basis. (I work for one) In some states, the committee has authority to stop rules from taking effect; in others, it is merely advisory.

    If an identical or similar rule were to be proposed by the Illinois Department of Insurance, and received a comparable volume of public comment/protest, the committee I work for would, at the very least, strongly object and likely would vote to stop the rule from taking effect. In the meantime, we, the committee staff, would be working very hard to get the agency and the affected groups/stakeholders to agree to changes before the committee allowed the rule to take effect. If an agency similar to our committee existed at the federal level, the HHS rule might have been nipped in the bud before ever being promulgated.

  12. I should add that in Illinois as in other states with a similar rules review system, the committee in question is bipartisan with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, and bicameral with an equal number of House and Senate members. The committee is specifically designed NOT to be dominated by one party or by one house.

  13. Jay, you make a good case. My point is not to say people should go running to the courts for everything disagreeable. In this case, the order is so constitutionally offensive it should be pursued in court to show yet another way Obamacare is constitutionally unsound without the expectation of the president signing an Act contrary to his department’s order.

  14. I agree, Kyle. I think the proper course is to do both: file suit to overturn the HHS mandate judicially, and to seek passage of Rubio’s bill to overturn the HHS mandate legislatively. If Obama were to veto the legislation and Congress was unable to override it, we’ll be glad to have the lawsuit to fall back on.

  15. Looks like Obama is sticking to his guns. He is not budging.

    “There was extensive and careful consideration as this policy was developed and a decision was made. And the issue here is we want to be sure women, all women, have access to good health care,” Carney said.

    Asked if there’s a debate within the administration about reconsidering, Carney responded:

    “No, there’s not a debate. … We want to work with organizations for the next year to help them deal with the implementation of the policy but the decision has been made, and it was made after careful consideration.”

    A disappointing statistic from the article.
    An AP-GfK poll from December found that Catholics supported Obama by 49 percent to 45 percent in a matchup with Republican front runner Mitch Romney. But among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, Romney had the edge by 45 percent to 52 percent.

  16. Update: Push back continues to grow.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Belmont Abbey College is suing the federal government over a new regulation that requires employers’ health insurance plans to provide free contraception and sterilization, even if it may be contrary to their religious beliefs.

    The civil lawsuit was filed Nov. 10 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit, public-interest law firm in Washington, D.C., that is representing the Catholic liberal arts college in Belmont. College leaders addressed reporters and answered questions during a press conference Nov. 18 held in front of the century-old abbey church, the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians.

    Good for Belmont!

  17. All of you may or may not know the obamacare law does not have a severance clause. If the court rescinds any part of this law, all of the law will be considered unconstitutional.

  18. I actually have a problem with Rubio’s strategy here. What this amounts to is an erroneous admission, albeit an unwitting admission, that the First Amendment doesn’t protect religious liberty. At the very, very least it makes it an open question.

    It is also one more example of how the right allows the left to define the terms of the debate. And when you allow your enemies to define the terms of the debate, you have already lost. Conservatives had better wake up to this fact quickly.

  19. I would actually go a little further and say that Obama is committing an impeachable offense with this HHS mandate. He takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. He is clearly and knowingly violating the First Amendment with this mandate. How this doesn’t qualify as a high crime or a misdemeanor is beyond me.

  20. I’m confused, our Constitution gives us the freedom of religion. Introducing an Act
    that “restores” our rights?? So, if the rights are there why is not challenge the constitutionality. Could someone ask Speaker Gingrich what he thinks? He is very
    knowledgeable and Santorum. We also have to be careful about writing and the way we
    express our “freedom of religion”. Remember, there are some radical Muslims that they
    want to kill us in the name of religion. Also in the name of religion they want to cover their faces in America, and we all know that we can not be secure this way. We also know that there is another that they think it is religion and in the name of religion they might want to have the right of poligamy. We should look ahead and protect ourselves not only for the freedom of religion as we have known it in the past but secure that in the future, any entity or individual claim in the name of religion that they are protected.
    Would any of you know how I could email directly to Gingrich and Santorum?

  21. Marco Rubio impressed me when he came in the political scene. I was dissapointed
    that although he had said earlier he was not endorsing anybody he then asked Speaker Gingrich to “change the wording” in an ad where Gingrich had said that Rommey was
    anti-hispanic. Why is it that Rubio didn’t asked Romney of all his untruthful and negative ads about Gingrich? As someone said above, Gingrich had a resounding victory in South Carolina. It was not only the negative ads of Romney, in fact, in my opinion
    it was Rubio’s request against the ad the doomed Gingrich. If Rubio wants so bad to beat Obama and Obamacare, why is he rooting for Roomney? Under Romneycare the were able to use the money for abortions and Gingrich is a much better debater than Romney and although I love Santorum, yet still Gingrich is the best debater.
    One thing we must do: Insist to the Media that we do not want questions to incite forever dialogue between the debaters. We want questions about what is their thinking and plans on how to accomplish what needs to be done for our country. (Not only economics, and security but also about bringing our Country to God. Isn’t that the foundation of our country? You know, In God We Trust; “founded by our Creator”
    and a disciplined audience but not a silenced audience! Most of us do not see that the MEDIA is the one controlling the shots! Gingrich has gotten twice a standing ovation, so what does the Media do next, silence the audience, then next, get a question that will limit Gingrich speak about his vision and plans to get our Country back in prosperity and back to God. WE ALL NEED TO SPEAK OUT LOUD ADDRESSING OUR REQUESTS TO THE BEST WAY THAT WE CAN BE HEARD, OVER AND OVER.

  22. Mary-Alice, this is what Newt says. I think his anger accurately represents mine.

    The idea the emperor is trying to negotiate a workaround angers me more. If these people want their contraceptives, buy it on their own dime! I know the Church will get snookered with any compromise offer. I have had it up to here (holding my hand at top of my head) with compromising with these people. No more!

  23. “Obama is committing an impeachable offense with this HHS mandate”

    One of the offenses cited in the article of impeachment against Governor Hairdo was an instance in which he enforced an agency rulemaking without legislative authorization and against the action of our committee to prohibit it.

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